Today’s column is about nothing special.
But before you turn the page in search of something special to read, let me explain.
I had the opportunity recently to sit through a screening of the indie film, “Nothing Special,” co-starring Barbara Bain and Karen Black. The writer-director, Angela Garcia Combs, and Black were in the theater to answer questions and to discuss their work.
It’s a story about the turning point in the life of an insurance underwriter named Louise who cares for her bipolar mother. Her damaged heart leads her to believe she’s nothing special, which she compensates for with grand fantasies about inventing time travel and appearing on “Oprah.”
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While I loved the film, it was a remark by its creator that resonated with me.
When asked about the title of her film, Garcia Combs said it came from the warped sense of individual importance prevalent in society today, especially in places such as Hollywood. Unless you’ve won an Oscar or done something dramatically remarkable, you’re nobody special in that town. She’s betting the popularity of her film that it’s more or less the same everywhere.
That twisted view of our world dismisses the truly heroic lives being led by people like Louise. Through her film, Garcia Combs tells us that devoting your life to such a noble endeavor as caring for a sick family member while struggling to balance your own ambitions and romantic dreams really is something special.
Her film delves into that sometimes dark and sometimes comic journey of “ordinary” lives. Why isn’t it enough to take care of your family and maybe tilt the world’s scales slightly toward goodness? And what does it mean to live well?
It’s so easy to feel insignificant in our modern world. After all, what can you really do about world terrorism or the confounding conflict in the Middle East?
We can, however, quietly make a difference in our own spheres of influence.
The issues facing communities are pretty much the same everywhere you go. There’s substance abuse, homelessness, and poverty. City officials walk the tightrope between encouraging growth for economic viability and holding back a stampede of uncontrolled commercialism.
And on it goes.
And yet, each community is different because the people are different. In some communities, people are resigned to a sense of powerlessness. In other communities, they believe they are creating the environment they desire.
The late David Halberstam, in his book “The Amateurs” describes what he calls the moment of swing in rowing: “When most oarsmen talked about their perfect moments in a boat, they referred not so much to winning a race, as to the feel of the boat, all eight oars in the water together, the synchronization almost perfect. In moments like these, the boat seemed to lift right out of the water. Oarsmen called that the moment of swing.”
A community can achieve that sense of oneness, when all the oars are pulling together, sometimes without even knowing it.
So, here’s my challenge to you: Who are those special people in Thurston County? Let’s call them our Thurston All-Stars. These are people who have made a difference and, whether they know it or not, are pulling together for the rest of us.
Maybe it’s someone who has overcome adversity with dignity. Maybe it’s someone who sacrificed their own dreams for someone or something else. Maybe it’s someone who’s just lived a good life.
Send me their names and tell me something about them. Together, we can show people who think they are “nothing special” just how special they really are.
George Le Masurier, publisher of The Olympian, can be reached at 360-357-0206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.